Had a good week in the final one of September. Finally starting to turn things around.
The big one was going with New Bedford to win over a Bridgewater-Raynham team that always finds a way to beat the Whalers. However, this resilient New Bedford team found a way to rally from a 28-7 deficit and pull out the victory.
Our most regrettable defeat was picking against UMass in what ended up the first 'W' of Walt Bell's head coaching career. Congrats to Bell and the Minutemen for making us look like idiots again.
We've got another full slate again this week, and, oh yeah, we've got Matt Feld as a guest-picker again this week, so let's get to it.
No. 5 Mansfield at No. 8 King Philip
We spoke to two coaches who have already played the visiting Hornets (2-1) and host Warriors (3-0) so far.
BC High coach Jon Brillo, whose Eagles lost to Mansfield, 31-10, in the opener for both squads: "The first thing we noticed right away, just looking at last year compared to this year, is they returned a ton of starters who are really familiar with their system, both offensively, defensively. They didn't run a ton, but what they do run, both offensively and defensively, they do extraordinarily well and execute. Aside from that, you talk about tough, that was the one thing we didn't match. Despite the game being 10-3 (Mansfield) for the majority of three quarters, we were still in the game . . . the big deciding factor for us is they were just physical and just wanted it more, and just mentally tough, more physically tough than we were in that specific game. We saw it right away where they ran a power backfield, and they hit our outside linebacker and absolutely de-cleated him. Right away, we knew they were going to be more physical than we were. We had to try and match it, and just didn't. They're physical. They're tough. Coach (Mike) Redding does an excellent job. Another thing I kind of noticed, and it's more overall in the town, was driving into Mansfield, the young kids are all wearing their Mansfield jerseys. So they kind of seem to have a system where everybody's running stuff from the time they get in to the youth team, all the way up through their high school, so by the time that they're hitting high school, they're almost running at 100 percent efficiency because the kids have run stuff for so long. They've run it for so long, and they all buy in to that system. . . . (Kicker/punter/running back/linebacker Mike DeBolt) is just phenomenal. It just comes down to just toughness. (Mansfield's backs) run hard. They don't go down on one tackle. Kicking-game-wise, they were booting the ball through the end zone when they needed to and forcing you into positions you didn't want to be in. A lot of people forget about special teams. They made it part of it where they can pin you deep, play some good defense. They blitzed a ton against us, did a lot of disruption, and made it easy for them to have a short field each time. Really, for them, they're all about being physical and execution. . . . They had a couple of (backs) that we said, wow, they are hitting the hole just so much faster than we've ever seen guys, and they were gone. Again, for us, it was 10-3, and the things that we gave up were explosive plays, the long runs. I think each one of them, there was a small, slide pass that went for 50-60 yards. There was another run that they hit for power that went for 40 or 50 yards for a touchdown. So they have big-play, explosive ability with those guys in the backfield. They're explosive. They're fast. They're physical. . . . What they do defensively, is they're just sound. They're experienced. They play sound defense. And, again, I can't say it enough. They were just physical against us. That was the big thing in the film, watching with coaches. We harped on that going into the bye week, and then back into Marshfield. We had to play more physical than with the teams that we played with. The old Mike Tyson adage, 'Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the mouth.' That's exactly what they did to us. They punched us right away, and we didn't really respond. Both offensively, defensively, they just pushed us around. You notice it right away. They've got big, thick legs, broad shoulders. They look physical. They play together. And they're just tough. They are. They're tough. The experience helps them a lot, and then the way they execute. It was a lot of jet sweep, jet sweep counter, iso, and power. That was pretty much it."
Franklin coach Eian Bain, whose Panthers lost to King Philip, 26-14, last weekend: "See, I don't think they're any different (in terms of run-pass balance). I think they've always been balanced, and (former offensive coordinator and John) Sarianides did a good job when he was calling plays. The biggest difference (under new offensive coordinator Cory Bailey) is they're in the gun, and there are a few concepts that are different. But I think that's something that's always been understated about KP is how well that they've chosen their spots to throw the football. So, formation-wise, a few different things, but at the end of our game, how they beat us was, even though they were in pistol, it was conceptually the same offense in terms of get the ball to (Ryan Halliday), run the ball. Instead of maybe using a true fullback, they've got two tight ends, which is how a lot of teams are constructing their offenses now. Rather than having a traditional fullback, you have two tight ends. But, at the end of the day, they've always thrown it well and they've always run it well. Their balance is just so tricky. It's packaged differently, but in terms of just who they are, I think that their identity is still the same. . . . I thought (quarterback Robbie Jarest) ran the ball well by extending plays (last year). I think the difference is now there are more designed runs for the quarterback, whereas before he was just such a savvy playmaker. The kid stepped into the state championship game as a sophomore (2017's Div. 2 Super Bowl win over Lincoln-Sudbury) and threw an absolute dart. So the kid is a talent throwing the ball, and he's a heady kid. I think there are some more plays that feature him, whereas more before he was improvising with his athleticism. But I think he's the same talent he's always been. . . . I think (the defense is) as fast overall as (it has) been. They've always kind of had a good balance of size and speed, and they're still big, but there's nobody slow. There are some guys who are more inexperienced than others, but their athleticism overall is deceptive on film vs. in person. . . . (Sophomore safety Crawford Cantave) is a stud. He's a good player. He's going to have a great career. I think if they didn't have a great kid at running back already, he'd probably be running the ball for them, too. He's already their first guy in (after Halliday). He's really a great athlete, a terrific talent. . . . I think when both programs are that strong, the inexperience element fades a little bit. The kids just know. It sets an expectation. So pointing at inexperience is just an easy thing. I think it's going to come down to more of a clash of style. Just looking at our game, the last two times we've played King Philip, where they have hurt us is the ability to possess the football and make the game on their terms. I think Mansfield, stylistically, seems to be different this year. Experience obviously is important, but if KP can dictate terms this week, too, (the Warriors) will have a better chance. And if Mansfield dictates their terms and turns it into a track meet, then it probably tilts more in their favor. Both are just so well-coached and have a system and culture in place that I think they can identify the contributors early and get the right guys in. So I wouldn't get too caught up in experience vs. inexperience. That's just my thought, because I think so highly of both organizations. . . . (The Warriors) play good, complementary football in all three phases. . . . (Halliday) carried the ball 33 times in our game, mostly in the second half. I think KP knows where to go when (it needs) a play — and it's Jarest, and it's Halliday, and that's not going to change. (Halliday)'s a good defender, too. I think people get caught up at how good he is at running back, but he's a really good defensive player (at linebacker). . . . If you can play tailback for coach (Brian) Lee, you've got to be the toughest SOB around. I think that's just what they've been able to identify. Whether it's Shane Frommer or the kid that got hurt before Shane Frommer, and now this guy. I mean, I'm not in their room, so I don't know. But I just think they find the toughest dude, and they're like, 'You're going to be the dude.' And they get that kid to believe in his dudeness, and he is that guy. . . . He finds a way to slip and sneak forward every time. He's good. I don't know. They do something. They program their minds. They must do the Jason Bourne program from Bourne Identity. They just make these kids into freaking warriors and put them at tailback. Whatever they do, I hope coach Lee writes a book because I'll buy the first copy. It's amazing what they're able to do. . . . Technically, they're as good as they've always been (on the offensive line). Maybe not as big, but sometimes that can be a benefit, too, because they're faster, and you can out-leverage. Their left tackle (Nolan Gunning) is the best tackle in the league, I think. He's a talent. The rest of their guys, they all just look solid, strong, weight-room kids. They're just solid fundamentally all the way around."
Prediction: Mansfield 28, King Philip 27
Feld: Lets face it folks. These two teams will be going at it again come November. I think Mansfield may have the last laugh but Friday night belongs to the home team. Ryan Halliday allows King Philip to chew up clock on the ground while Robert Jarest makes the few key throws he needs. The KP defense goes without saying.
Feld's pick: King Philip 21, Mansfield 18
No. 1 Catholic Memorial at No. 13 Xaverian
Xaverian will try to slow things down, keep CM's offense off the field, and shorten the game. Still, the Knights have the ability to win in so many different ways that we feel they'll survive what we think will be a closer one than some expect.
Prediction: Catholic Memorial 23, Xaverian 20
Feld: Xaverian always seems to find a way to navigate through the Catholic Conference even when the prospects are not bright. This year feels different, however. Catholic Memorial's speed, quickness, and athleticism is too much as the Knights find enough openings in the passing game to win with room to spare.
Feld's pick: Catholic Memorial 30, Xaverian 13
No. 3 Central Catholic at Andover
We know Central Catholic has suffered a lot of injuries. Andover is coming on strong lately, and we wouldn't be surprised to see the Golden Warriors pull the upset, but the Raiders are the pick.
Prediction: Central Catholic 35, Andover 31
Feld: Hard not to feel for Central Catholic these days as it gets dealt devastating blow after blow. Still sticking with sophomore star-in-the-making Ayden Pereira and company, but this game is shaping up to be a whole lot more competitive than it looked even two weeks ago.
Feld's pick: Central Catholic 27, Andover 20
Shepherd Hill at No. 7 St. John's (S)
Shepherd Hill will score on the Pioneers, as running back Nathaniel Cooper is one of the best in the state. A year ago, the Rams did a nice job of controlling the ball and keeping the St. John's offense off the field before the Pioneers pulled away. We see the same thing playing out this time around.
Prediction: St. John's 35, Shepherd Hill 22
Feld: To the surprise of some St. John's finds itself currently as the No. 7 seed in Div. 3 Central which makes this game all that much more important for the Pioneers. Shepherd Hill is off to a terrific start but I have to think St. John's navigates around the minefield of a dubious 1-3 start.
Feld's pick: St. John's 28, Shepherd Hill 23
Leominster at No. 9 Wachusett
We haven't gone out on a limb too much this week, but we feel like doing it with this one. The Blue Devils are battle-tested and haven't been able to win the close ones yet. We feel like this time, they do.
Prediction: Leominster 13, Wachusett 10
Feld: Wa-Wa-Wachusett. Mountaineers defense is as good advertised and they continue their climb towards to the top of Div. 3 Central.
Feld's pick: Wachusett 17, Leominster7
Wellesley at No. 10 Natick
Last year, this was an overtime bonanza that the Redhawks survived. Although both teams are off to a fine start and it's a fierce rivalry, but Natick simply seems like the better team.
Prediction: Natick 35, Wellesley 27
Feld: Haven't given Wellesley the credit they deserve so far this season, but Natick's high-powered offense is simply too much to handle. Would not be surprised if these were two of the final four teams left in Division 2 South come November.
Feld's pick: Natick 38, Wellesley 28
No. 12 Barnstable at New Bedford
Everyone we have talked to has warned us not to pick New Bedford in this one. They've told us that Barnstable is just better. But this was a close game last year in Barnstable that could have gone either way, and the 50-50 games seem to be tilting toward New Bedford right now. Give us the Whalers.
Prediction: New Bedford 27, Barnstable 24
Feld: Whalers are an underrated threat to wreak havoc in Div. 2 South once the regular season concludes. This time around, however, Barnstable returns to early season form to pick up a key victory.
Feld's pick: Barnstable 24, New Bedford 20
No. 23 North Andover at No. 16 Tewksbury
Not sure really where to go with this one. North Andover has been terrific offensively, and Tewksbury has the confidence of a big-time win over BC High last week. We are leaning toward the Redmen taking care of business and getting a little revenge.
Prediction: Tewksbury 24, North Andover 23
Feld: North Andover is in need of a big time win following a 1-2 start and they find a way to come up with one to halt Tewksbury's newfound momentum. Freddy Gabin is poised for a breakout game.
Feld's pick: North Andover 26, Tewksbury 17
Beverly at No. 17 Marblehead
Marblehead might be a little underrated here, and the Magicians have been mowing teams over since beating North Andover in the opener. Beverly will be fine, but we think the hosts are a little stronger at the moment.
Prediction: Marblehead 26, Beverly 23
Feld: This could be the last remaining big obstacle for Marblehead as they look to finish the regular season spotless. Panthers provide a challenge but cant slow the Magicians down enough to take control.
Feld's pick: Marblehead 31, Beverly 20
Stoneham at No. 20 Melrose
We think people may have given up a little early on Stoneham because of the loss to Bishop Fenwick, but Melrose still looks like a wagon right now, so that's where we will put our chips down on.
Prediction: Melrose 30, Stoneham 26
Feld: Going to be awfully hard to convince me to pick against Melrose this season. Red Raiders are the real deal and then some.
Feld's pick: Melrose 33, Stoneham 24
Abington at Mashpee
Abington tested itself well in nonleague play, and even though Mashpee is strong again, the Green Wave have been our Div. 7 South pick since the preseason.
Prediction: Abington 20, Mashpee 16
Feld: Tough road trip for Abington, but I'm riding with the Green Wave who seem hungry to get back to the top after last year's bitter ending.
Feld's pick: Abington 26, Mashpee 22
West Springfield at Minnechaug
This is where we will be tonight. Minnechaug is clearly the second-best Western Mass. Div. 3 team right now, while West Side could push Amherst for the Div. 5 West crown. Minnechaug, in physical size and pure numbers, is bigger and should be the favorite here.
Prediction: Minnechaug 35, West Side 27
Blue Hills at Old Colony
Old Colony has been making a steady push this season to make a run in Div. 8 South. So has Blue Hills, and these are two evenly-matched teams. The home team is the pick in a game that could go either way.
Prediction: Old Colony 18, Blue Hills 16
Feld's pick: Old Colony 20, Blue Hills 13
St. Sebastian's at Nobles
This is the first ISL-6 test for a Nobles team that really could hang with just about anyone in that division. We see the Bulldogs passing it.
Prediction: Nobles 30, St. Sebastian's 20
Boston College at Louisville
BC will be smarting off its loss to Wake Forest, which is simply a much better team than everyone thought at the beginning of the season. Louisville isn't there yet, and the Eagles bounce back here.
Prediction: Boston College 35, Louisville 21
UMass at Florida International
The Minutemen are riding the wave of momentum following their first win of the season, and we're excited to see what comes next. That said, on the road against a struggling, yet more established team in FIU, we see UMass coming up short.
Prediction: Florida International 34, UMass 30
Holy Cross at Bucknell
Although the offense still hasn't really taken off for the Crusaders yet, we feel their tough early-season scheduling will pay off here.
Prediction: Holy Cross 16, Bucknell 13
Howard at Harvard
The Crimson are hitting their stride after the Brown win last week, and we expect the offense to continue its upward trajectory.
Prediction: Harvard 33, Howard 16
Bryant at Merrimack
We will be here Saturday for this one on Homecoming for Merrimack against a Bryant team that has a lot of local talent on it. Both teams should be fairly evenly-matched, but the visitors' depth may be the difference here.
Prediction: Bryant 28, Merrimack 24
Bentley at Assumption
These are two very talented teams that are squarely in the mix for the Northeast-10 title. Assumption has been crushing teams of late, and the Greyhounds are at home, so we will go with them in a close one.
Prediction: Assumption 31, Bentley 30
UMass-Dartmouth at Framingham State
As much as we love UMass-Dartmouth, the hosts are tremendous on the ground and explosive in that area of the game. We will go with the Rams here.
Prediction: Framingham State 24, UMass-Dartmouth 21
Last week: 16-5